$16 Million vs. $4: The Economics of Fatal Police Shootings, Payouts Vary Widely


This is America, where a life’s value can be determined by the culpability of the officer, the sympathy for the victim, and even where the people lived. When a police officer fatally shoots a person, the usual reasons are offered: the officer was afraid for his life, or the victim was reaching for his waistband or refused to show his hands. 

When Robert Rialmo, a Chicago police officer, killed Bettie R. Jones, a 55-year-old, there were no reasons to give. Officials acknowledged that Ms. Jones had not only been innocent but had died while trying to help the police. However, Ms. Jones was not the only person killed that evening in December 2015 by Officer Rialmo. During the same incident, he fatally shot Quintonio LeGrier, a 19-year-old college student. The city review board found that Officer Rialmo’s actions in both shootings were unjustified, however, Chicago treated the two deaths quite differently. Ms. Jones’s family stands to receive a $16 million settlement, while Mr. LeGrier’s family did not receive a settlement. 

In a recent case, a Florida jury awarded $4 (READ THAT AGAIN, $4!!!) to the family of a Gregory Hill, a Black man who was killed when the police fired through his closed garage door after a dispute in which they said he was holding a gun. Settlements awarded to the families of the victims of police killings have varied from $1.5 million for Michael Brown, $2.8 million for Oscar Grant, to $18 million for LaTanya Haggerty. 


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